Leavenworth The cannon that blasts off when Leavenworth High scores is loud. Really loud. Too loud. Almost as loud as the hits Free State High’s first-string defenders put on the Pioneers keeping the cannon silent until giving way to the second team.
Free State’s defense in the first half of a 47-14 football victory against Leavenworth thoroughly suffocated the Pioneers, who had negative-12 yards and just one first down in the first two quarters on a cold Friday night.
Green helmets flew into the Leavenworth backfield from every direction to deliver hits that drew gasps from the home crowd.
One minute it was Cody Stanclift muscling his way into the backfield to drop the quarterback. The next minute Blake Winslow or Stan Skwarlo would fly back there. Then fast, thick Keith Loneker would stop a ballcarrier cold, not giving an inch, shoving him to the ground.
And then there was (Well Above Average) Joe (Versatile) Dineen, who did too much too loudly to merit just one nickname. He ran for a touchdown and 60 yards, some coming as a running back early, others as a quarterback late, and threw for 63 yards and put a whole lot of speed behind his crisp hits from the safety position.
On a play that so often makes defenders panic their way into dropping the football, Joe (Cool) eyed a batted ball all the way into his hands for his third interception of the season.
“We’re meshing real good right now,” Dineen said. “We just play our assignments and know that everyone else is going to do his job. We know where people are going to be, and we know people are going to do the right things.”
Khadre Lane delivered one of the loudest hits on special teams.
“He’s so fast,” Dineen said. “He’s so big and strong. You would not want to step in front of that.”
The deep Firebirds (7-1) will enter Friday’s city showdown at Lawrence High as slight favorites.
“We’ll come in ready,” Dineen said. “They got us pretty good last year. We’ll be wanting some revenge.”
Granted, we’re only 12 percent into this century, but this truly does shape up as the city’s high school football game of the century.